Florida is a key battleground state that is diverse but leans conservative. In Santa Rosa County alone, more than 73 percent of the county’s almost 90,000 ballots were cast were for President Trump in 2016.
Elections officials in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties said that they had already exceeded the state’s expectations for early voting, including extra days and hours than the minimum required by state laws.
“We’ve offered above and beyond what the statute requires,” said Tappie Villane, the supervisor of elections of Santa Rosa County. “Voters have had ample opportunity if they want to early vote.”
Alabama, too, is expected to feel some of the impact from the storm — but officials do not expect effects on voting. Although the state does not offer early voting at precincts, it does offer absentee ballots that can be mailed or dropped off to county absentee election managers, said John Merrill, the secretary of state. More than 240,000 absentee ballots have been returned, beating the previous record of 89,000 ballots, Mr. Merrill said.
Officials in Alabama will not begin opening ballots to tabulate results until Election Day, so tabulation delays from the storm are unlikely. “We want to be prepared, but in our preparation, we’re going to make sure we follow the law,” Mr. Merrill said.
Zeta’s strength, as it hits land, is unusual for this time of year.
The strength of Zeta as it headed toward the Gulf Coast is unusual: During this time of year, only three other Category 2 storms are known to have made landfall in the continental United States — in 1899, 1935 and 1985 — according to Philip Klotzbach, a research scientist at the department of atmospheric science at Colorado State University.
This storm, with its predicted storm surge of six to nine feet, is “going to be pretty serious,” Dr. Klotzbach said. And since it appears to be headed toward densely populated areas, “its impacts are going to be felt by a lot more people” than the storms this year that struck farther west.